The Lakers wrap up their 3 game road trip tonight, playing the Grizzlies in Memphis. The team is 0-2 on the trip so far, losing at Chicago and Milwaukee on back to back nights. Both games were poor defensive efforts, but that is not really new on the year. The Bulls carved up the Lakers in the half court and semi-transition while the Bucks simply turned on the jets and got easy basket after easy basket in the open court.
I was asked on twitter about the team’s specific failings in transition defense, since I was lamenting how poor the team has been in that area all year. The answers are mostly straight forward:
- Even though the Lakers run a two-guard front as part of their base offense, they often lack floor balance due to the want of their guards to penetrate to/below the foul line — especially out of the pick and roll.
- The lack of floor balance is exacerbated by the number wing post ups and isolations the team runs for Kobe and how often those actions turn into long jumpers.
- The Lakers guards — this is true of Russell, Clarkson, and Lou (but especially Russell) — often like to watch shots go up rather than starting to retreat into transition defense immediately after shots go up.
- The Lakers, in general, often crash the offensive glass with two or more players. The Lakers guards and wings — especially Kobe, Clarkson, and, to a lesser extent, Russell — crash the glass more than they should. This only further throws the team’s floor balance out of whack.
Add all this up and the team just doesn’t get back on defense very well. There are ways to fix this, of course. The guards could avoid crashing the glass. The team can say that 3 of the 4 players who aren’t taking the shot should not be looking to get offensive rebounds at all, and instead run back on defense once a shot is taken. A greater emphasis on taking fewer long jumpers — especially since the primary defensive player often closes out on the shooter and then starts to leak out in transition right away.
Either the coaches aren’t stressing these things or the players aren’t listening if they are stressed. Either way, the Lakers will continue to be poor in transition defense until they start to adjust some of these habits.
While it would be nice to say this shouldn’t be an issue tonight against the Grizz, that’s really not true. They aren’t known as a running team, but they do have players — Conley, Barnes, Lance Stephenson — who can get out in the open court and finish. If the Lakers continue to exhibit the traits they have all year, look for these guys to feast in early offense — particularly Barnes.
Even if the Lakers do find a way to turn this game into more of a halfcourt affair, they will not be off the hook. Memphis is without Marc Gasol and Tony Allen (whose cutting always gives the Lakers problems), but they will still try to pound the Lakers inside with Zach Randolph post-ups and by running Conley in the P&R with Z-Bo and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. These actions can turn into easy shots inside or kick outs to Barnes, Lance, and Vince Carter who can all hit from distance if given open looks. The Lakers’ rotations will need to be sharp.
Offensively, we’re at the point where I don’t expect much to change, but I am looking for small improvements. One thing to watch is how well Clarkson and Lou Williams run the offense when Russell is on the bench. For most of the year, both have been okay at initiating the team’s sets, but over the past month or so this has been less true. Rather than running the team’s elbow or chin series, Clarkson often calls for early P&R’s and if nothing develops he just pounds the ball as the clock winds down. Lou, meanwhile, will call more plays, but he too will look to create his own shot first rather than going through the team’s actions.
I’d like to see both guys call more sets if only to help get the other players involved more. Running P&R’s is all fine and good, but the Lakers’ O isn’t set up in a way that when that action breaks down there are easy outlets. So working their sets early and going to the P&R later might be the better approach.
Lastly, this is Kobe’s last game in Memphis and tonight also marks the point were we are under 25 games left in the year. I have little to add here that I haven’t said already about how this makes me feel and/or how it might affect the other players, but…man, it’s getting closer to the end and that stirs up the emotions. Here’s hoping he can have a good showing, though I’m sure he wishes he had one more chance to go at it with Tony Allen for old time’s sake.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.
Craig W. says
I really liked your specific analysis, instead of simple complaints about coaching, front office, etc. We can all make the simple complaints, but the specific analysis is what is needed to make/back-up management judgments. IMO, that’s the approach we bloggers should be taking.
IMO, that’s the approach we bloggers should be taking.
I think that approach comes next year when we can finally turn the page and move forward as an organization. Its incredibly difficult to root for a team that has painted itself into a corner to such a degree that losing games is seen as a preferred option.
~~Either the coaches aren’t stressing these things or the players aren’t listening if they are stressed.~~~. That’s it!! In a nutshell but i think it’s both i would add “the pkayers don’t give a crap about what the coach says and tuned him out a long time ago” but i digress, Good X&O article Darius. It’s getting tiresome around here i include myself in the endless debate and bickering about the FO, Byron, Kobe’s tour and all that. I just want to watch a good competitive basketball game for a change and maybe just maybe get a win sometimes, and im asking too much? Rough times…
I remember when going 4-3 in the Grammy trip would cause all kinds of alarms on this blog, *sight* #firstworldproblems
I’m glad that the Clarkson/Russell back court may be getting more burn together. Its time to really see if they are as compatible as we hope they are. I think it’s kind of important to know that since everyone assumes this is our back court of future.
Regarding the recent trade deadline: I get that Hibbert was unmoveable (large contract even at pro rated numbers + he’s not very good) and that Bass’ player option made him a 25 game rental.
However, Williams is having a nice season and with an expanding cap his deal only gets better over the remaining two years of the contract — why wasn’t he dealt? Surely, he had value. His age and skill set would seemingly make him a better fit on a playoff team than to the Lakers who will not likely be in the playoff hunt until after Williams is gone.
I’m just surprised there was’t an effort to move him or more interest from other teams. It looks like his playing time may diminish over the remaining 25 games so his stats may also decline. If that happens then its hard to see his trade value increasing this summer.
I’m not a big fan of the Grizzlies. Gasol is a solid center and Conley is a decent PG but what made them special was Randolph and his production has been slipping these last few years. With Gasol out they are dead in the water this season. Barring some unforseen talent infusion this summer I sense that they will begin to slide in the Western Division standings.
Bottom line for me is that the Lakers should win tonight.
– It’ll be interesting next season when the young guys are getting their fair share of touches, are actually motivated and their defense is noticeably improved. Wonder if people will finally realize why these guys and the team looked so bad all season.
Baylor Fan says
Tonight’s game is very winnable against a depleted team that slows the pace down. I hope Kobe takes Doc Rivers out to dinner after the season and thanks him for benching Tony Allen during the 4th quarter of the 2010 finals. Kobe had 13 points going into the 4th and Ray Allen was gassed. Instead of putting in their “Kobe stopper” Doc rode Ray the rest of the way. Kobe scored 10 points in the quarter and the Lakers eked out the win. I have to think that even 5 min of Tony would have made a difference.
Is Nance still injured? I ask because his stats have dropped off considerably since returning. I know folks like to include Nance/Brown/Black in the discussion of our young core — I think they all need considerable more PT before making that assumption.
Is Black a restricted free agent this summer or simply a free agent. If he’s a free agent then I’b be concerned that he’d leave just to get more playing time. The Lakers have kind of short changed him this year.
Barnes eating up Kobe….Plus why wasn’t Bass playing earlier?.//Would love to see Scott tell the truth… Our Veterans are terrible….
DJ KHALED says
Another loss, we the best!
Depleted Memphis had their best offensive showing of the year in no small way courtesy of the lack of transition defense (or really any defense) that Darius articulated above. They shot a ridiculous 56.5%!!
But nice offensive outing by Clarkson and Russell had a career high 8 assists along with 22 points. Randle also back to double double land.
Nevertheless, we are “O” fer on the 3 game roadie and now the losing streak is at 7. Team tank is mightily rolling along.
But heartened by how Clarkson, Russell & Randle seem to be gelling.
Hibbert continues to mystify. Why is he getting PT?? 1 point and 4 boards in 16 minutes. Black did not play well either but at least he managed the same four rebounds in 9 minutes of total playing time. And BB managed 11 pts & 6 rebs in 22 min. Which is a nice contribution. Lou was an efficient scorer as well. So some decent bright spots but defensive woes and losses continue.
And here’s a record that Coach Scott may have a stranglehold on…Byron already leads the league with the worst win rate of ANY NBA coach with 1000 or more NBA games. Shoot he might as well lock that distinction down now while he still can. It is unlikely that after he is fired for what will now be the fourth time (I didn’t look this up but that could be a record as well) he will not get any more chances to make his win record any worse than the historically bad level he has already achieved.
Holes in the team
Hibbert, kobe, swaggy p, and lou williams
Keys to losing 2 of those players on the floor at the same time throughout the games
J C says
I was wondering the same about Williams but I like the guy and I think the front office thinks that if they can be more competitive next year, he’d be a nice scorer off the bench. He and Nance had the best +/- of anyone.
Happy to see Russell rack up some assists.
Baylor fan – funny about Tony Allen.
We loved winning those titles but we really had to earn them and we definitely had a few breaks along the way.
http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2016/2/24/11104172/la-lakers-dangelo-russell-jahlil-okafor-nba-draft-comparison Pretty good read…
Russell and the kids are not the problem. It’s the fact that the kids were always a Plan B to signing multiple max free agents. It’s putting place coach better suited to TV studio game comments. It’s management that chose to try and hide how bankrupt the team’s talent base was behind a broken down Kobe.
The problem is the general feeling that the organization is stuck — treading water waiting for the face of the franchise to retire and freeing the team from a box that the FO put themselves in.
In my mind the kids are alright. They are all in a complementary roles — deferring to Kobe and his farewell tour/playing on a really bad team. But even in this surreal environment the big three Randle/Clarkson/Russell are producing.
I want to be as optimistic as many on the board about the kids being truly foundational pieces. However, the real test will come next year. Now, opposing teams look past the Lakers — seeing them as a sure win, a team that doesn’t require real effort to beat.
Starting next year the Kids will need to own this team — they won’t be able to hide in the background of the Kobe/Byron circus. They should get pissed off if an opposing team is playing their ‘B’ game and beating them. If they lose (and they likely will) they should want the other team to say, ‘We had to play a full 48 minutes to beat the Lakers.’
I for one have had enough of this outscoring the other team in garbage time to make the game look close. Mediocre teams call that a moral victory. Well, I’m tired of moral victories. I hope the kids are feeling the same way.
I can already see the Kobe-cancer comments once the team takes off next year (compared to this year).
Try to count how many times hibbert gets baited into pick-in-rolls
They should get pissed off if an opposing team is playing their ‘B’ game and beating them.
Is it a real concern that the youngsters will get used to having other team’s play them soft and they never are able to step up as the competition get’s stiffer?
Worried: The Lakers are losing primarily because this year is indeed a circus and the fact that we don’t have enough talent. The circus is scheduled to end on April 13th. Let’s hope the talent starts to come thereafter — beginning with the draft.
– @ Harold, I would hope you and everyone will be able to see the obvious. It’s been pretty clear to many already.
The Lakers are losing primarily because this year is indeed a circus and the fact that we don’t have enough talent. The circus is scheduled to end on April 13th. Let’s hope the talent starts to come thereafter — beginning with the draft.
The sad thing about the rebuilding process is all the draft picks we still owe, those are bargaining chips we don’t have.
Great Article posted Fern !
The kids score and play well most times, not only in garbage,..
An easy assumption to make if you watch a few games, though, inaccurate if you watch the close ones against good teams like the Spurs for example.
Bruce McNall says
We need to beat out the Suns for the second worst record. Getting at least a split against them in the coming two games would be great. Keys to more losing: unlimited shots for Kobe and big minutes for Roy. Both have become sieves defensively. Go Byron!
The cancer on the Lakers is a lack of high-end NBA talent in its prime. The biggest problems with Kobe are that he is 37 years old and that the FO offered him two years instead of one.
Good post. I think Russell has a lot of potential and there are plusses with the other guys. But I also think that the best player on the next Lakers contender is not on the roster right now. Kobe and Byron being gone will be positives, but as I have said all year, I think people are overstating that case and I think those who want to complain should focus their ire elsewhere.
DeRozan and Whiteside: I have not seen either of them play enough to have a firm opinion, and as noted by many, they will likely stay put. But I see them as worthwhile targets. I am sure this will come up later as things move forward.
T. Rogers says
Here is a great read on just one of the many things the Spurs are doing with data. I’m not saying the Lakers aren’t doing these kinds of things. But if they are they are keeping it to themselves.
The NBA is like a good magician. It is a master of misdirection. The narrative that becomes popular is the one of the unselfish player who takes less to help his organization build a team (Dirk, Duncan) as opposed to the selfish player (Kobe) who doesn’t. Meanwhile, most franchises are doing quite well. People forget that Kobe took less than the max when he re-signed. Millions of dollars less on the pages of a blog mean nothing. But in reality it is still millions of dollars. The distribution of monies and how it relates to building a team has made this league very unpalatable. Players like Varejao and Joe Johnson are bought out at the season’s 11th hour and then added to contenders, possibly altering the balance of power. The league needs a new CBA in the worst way. This business of taking less to join a “contender” probably has the owners splitting their sides with laughter all the way to the bank.
Teams that sign their stars to less dollars are not laughing all the way to the bank. San Antonio and Dallas do not have cap space. They have spent the max allowable but have spread the money around in an effort to help the team make progress as opposed to lauding it over one player.
The Lakers are tracking towards 120+ losses during the two years of the extension. Still some say that we should have paid Kobe the max. The honest truth is that the extension made no basketball sense at the time and in retrospect it looks even worse now. Leaders have to make hard decisions and if no one in that FO really explored the downside of financially handicapping the organization then that is yet another massive fail they need to own.
It’s ironic that its the Buss kids that are laughing all the way to bank in spite of their ineptitude.
Teams like SA should be over the cap. When I hear of a guy like David West taking so much less than what he could be making to sign with the Spurs it raises a red flag for me. Who is so altruistic and noble that a ring means more than $10M/year? I don’t buy it. Maybe the Lakers’ FO is incompetent you claim for rewarding Kobe as you claim, but I see the CBA as the villain.